Archive for May, 2012

Today’s blip: Is Boo Japan’s hide-and-seek champion?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

One of these things is not like the other…

A Pomeranian called Boo has been heralded by internet critics as the world’s cutest dog and even has his own Facebook page with over 4 million followers. Adding to his resume, he might just be Japan’s unofficial hide-and-seek champion (although it is unknown if this is actually Boo or just a look-alike). Regardless, this cute ball of fur is sweeping the web! Can you spot him? (Be sure to click the image to see him in action!)

Boyish style raises questions about gender roles

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

With their ultra-feminine looks, pretty boys dressed up as their favorite female anime characters have been getting a lot of media attention in recent years. Now it looks like the trend for playing with gender roles is filtering through to women’s fashion. “Boy’s style” has even got so big that major fashion magazine Kera launched a sister magazine called Kera Boku in October last year aimed at the market.

The cover star of Kera Boku, according to an online article in Cafe Goo Girl, is Akira, front woman of the band DISACODE (see video above), whose androgynous features make her the perfect model for this new look. Though it is not a monthly publication, the spin-off has proved popular enough for a second issue to be published this month. Mini, another fashion magazine for women in their 20s, has devoted its June issue to “boyish” style defined by cropped haircuts and mannish jeans.

Lady looks like a dude

The terms “boyish” or “boy’s style” rendered phonetically into Japanese are roughly equivalent to the word tomboyish, though their meaning is restricted to describing how a girl dresses. But some girls are taking this further by completely transforming their gender identities and dressing up as men. This form of cross-dressing is called dansou in Japanese (as opposed to josou, which is applied to men dressing as women). Dansou is not a new thing. The Takarazuka Revue is an all-female troupe, some members of whom dress in drag to play male roles to an audience of adoring women. However, its huge popularity with hardcore female fans is on the wane with younger generations, so it’s interesting to see a resurgence in popularity for dansou.

Akihabara, which has been at the center of the josou boom, is now the location of With The Garçon dansou escort agency. The patrons of the agency are women who pay to go out on a date with another woman dressed in drag. They can chose between walking round Akihabara or drinking in a bar to “relieve stress.” One client said, “This shop can provide me with an experience that men these days can’t. They’re better than men, you know.” The writer of the Cafe Goo Girl article believes that these cross-dressing women, rather than being confused about their gender identities, are merely playacting the role of the “ideal man.” Disappointed with modern men, they are temporarily dressing up and showing guys how women ought to be wooed.

So with more men dressing up as women and women dressing up as men, where is this all going to lead? A light-hearted answer will be given to movie goers this August when the live-action movie of the manga “Ai Ore: Love Me!” is released in theatres. A romance between the tomboyish lead singer of a band and a girlish boy, the romantic comedy is bound to strike a chord with Japan’s youth.

Pulsations (05.25.12)

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • What Do Japanese Children Want to Be When they Grow Up? (Survey) (from Skeptikai): You know, kids, working as an animated character is not all it’s cracked up to be — long hours, bad pay, plus the jump from being a human to the 2D world really takes its toll on your body. Better have something to fall back on, like professor or astronaut.
  • Whale-safe beer (from LLP): The anti-globalists were right all along: Commercial society has now reached a point where all products look alike. That is the only explanation we can think of for the fact that beer companies are competing on which beer contains the least amount of whale.
  • Nintendo characters as Ukiyo-e prints (from Geekologie): Someday, maybe archaeologists will find these prints and use them as proof that aliens visited Japan in the 17th century. This is how deranged historical theories are created, people!
  • The 2012 annular eclipse seen from Tokyo (from Hikosaemon): Yeah, this blog round-up wouldn’t be complete without the event that for once had the entire east coast of Japan on their feet at 7 in the morning. Hikosaemon gets the Japan Pulse Photo of the Week Award (disclaimer: not an actual thing) for the shot of a helicopter passing in front of his lens just at the moment of total eclipse.

Pulsations (5.18.12)

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Why do gaijin clash on the issue of racism in Japan? (From Loco in Yokohama): The “micro-aggressions” discussion, started by the notorious Mr. Debito, has been tearing up the expat community for the last couple of weeks, leaving some of us feeling like the child of a soon-to-be divorced couple, standing in the middle of the room screaming “STOP FIGHTING!” If that’s you, let Loco explain to you why everybody’s mad.
  • How to dress like Lady Gaga in Tokyo (from Tokyo Telephone): This week Tokyo was graced by the presence of her monster-ness Lady Gaga. No big surprise that she looooves shopping in Tokyo. Tokyo Telephone shopped in her footsteps.
  • Taboo Tattoo: The current state of ink in Japan (from Spoon & Tamago): Osaka’s rebel mayor Toru Hashimoto felt compelled to point out that Lady Gaga wouldn’t be able to get a job with the Osaka government. Of course, Ms. Gaga’s credentials as a bureaucrat are impeccable, it’s just that Mr. Hashimoto doesn’t like her tattoos.
  • Japanese web design: Why you so 2003? (from Tofugu): “Tonight we gon’ be coding like it’s nineteen ninety nine,” sang the designers while they filled their web sites with text.
  • The history of the Gyaru (from Neojaponisme): Yes, we know it’s Friday and you’re a little tired for something long and thoughtful. For now, go check out the redesign at Neojaponisme. You can save the long-read about the history of the gyaru female sub-culture for a lazy Sunday.

I’m too sexy for my sutras

Thursday, May 17th, 2012


Kansho Tagai, the rapping monk.

Cute young monks are apparently gaining in popularity among young women in Japan. Whether the draw is the sage advice or unadorned good looks, an event held by young monks at Ginza Modern Art gallery in Tokyo has been attended by eager crowds of women in their 20s and 30s. Furthermore, the popularity of “The Illustrated Picture Book of Beautiful Young Monks,” published last month, seems to indicate that some women are focusing on the physical, rather than metaphysical, attractions of the Buddhist religion.

This illustrated book features hunky monks

The Ginza event is called “Be Healed by Young Monks.” The idea of the monthly gathering is to create an easy-going atmosphere in which members of the public can chat with young Buddhist monks. To encourage an informal atmosphere, beer and snacks are consumed by both lay people and monks. Though sutras are read at the beginning, guests are not necessarily limited to consulting the monk hosts about matters of religion. According to an article in Sponichi, women also ask for advice on matters of the heart, posing questions such as, “Is it bad that I feel so jealous of my boyfriend’s platonic friendship with another woman?”

The event was created last year as a way for members of the public who have been under stress since the quake to get stuff off their chests. The rather salacious article in Sponichi, however, suggests that the women attending have other motives in mind. “The monk held my gaze as he talked to me. He was really adorable,” a 20-year-old university student tells Sponichi. “He spoke beautifully, completely different from the guys I know.”

Though this might not be exactly the kind of attention they are craving from Japan’s youth, some Buddhist monks seem to be willing to employ radical methods to get people interested in the religion.  According to the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs, since 2000, hundreds of temples have closed every year.  Monks serve up both alcohol and sutras at the bar Vowz in Shinjuku. Though the bartenders here aren’t specifically chosen to be easy on the eye, the monks of the Jodo sect who run this bar do have an easy-going approach to religious instruction. Hip hop is another unlikely weapon being used to entice young worshipers. According to CNN World, Kansho Tagai has doubled attendance by rapping sutras and holding hip hop events at Kyoouji Temple.

Can we expect Buddhism to be coming back into style? Perhaps. One reviewer on Amazon of “The Illustrated Picture Book of Beautiful Young Monks”  pointed out that monks might be on the cutting edge, since the shaven head (non)hair style is “gentle on the purse and the environment.” Word.

 

Rediscovering Japan’s ‘lost generation’ and Tokyo Beatles

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Life magazine has dug into its vault and recently released a treasure trove of photos that photojournalist Michael Rougier took for a Life special issue on Japan, published in September 1964. Many of them have never been published before. Rougier contrasted the outer appearance of “youth who seem as wholesome and happy as a hot fudge sundae” with the subcultures he found hanging out in jazz clubs and taking drugs at all-night beach parties. In text that accompanied the photos, correspondent Robert Morse wrote:

Having sliced the ties that bind them to the home, in desperation they form their own miniature societies with rules of their own. The young people in these groups are are bound to one another not out of mutual affection — in many cases the “lost ones” are incapable of affection — but from the need to belong, to be part of something.

Morse and Rougier documented the kids who rebelled against their parents through pill popping, motorcycle riding, swigging booze — and gyrating to the sounds of the Tokyo Beatles. The band was a relatively short-lived phenomenon, with only one album to show for its three years in existence. The music is covers of Beatles’ songs rendered in a mix of Japanese and English. It sounds at once like a straight copy and like something completely new. Judging from the photographs, it hit the right chords with the teens of Tokyo. We strongly recommend that you see the full gallery of photos and read more at LIFE.com. It won’t be time wasted.

Pulsations (05.10.12)

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Visual guide to Japanese kaomoji (emoticons) (from Japan Sugoi): One of the sad things about coming to Japan is discovering that your phone is able to express more shades of human emotion than you. The only logical step is to start copying the emoticons — Japan Sugoi shows you how.
  • A Poppin’ Cookin’ Good Time (from Sake Puppets): “Where’s my flying car,” you might ask. “Where is that love-making robot I was promised?” If you feel a little sad about this future we’re living in, maybe this DIY ice-cream cone candy set will cheer you up.

JAL builds a social media campaign, one block at a time

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Play with blocks and possiby win a round trip from Tokyo to Boston

To celebrate its new route from Tokyo to Boston, JAL has launched a nifty social media campaign called “JAL Social Block Art.” Also available in English for U.S. residents, those taking part get the chance to win air miles, special key holders and even a pair of tickets between Tokyo and Boston. Only users who register via Facebook or Twitter can qualify to win prizes, potentially making it a great viral campaign.

Once signed in, you’re presented with 3-D blocks to play with; competitors can add colors and remove or add mini blocks. If you hit on the correct combination of blocks, you’re automatically entered into two lotteries. The first lets you know immediately if you’ve won a key holder or air miles. The second is for round trip flights and is drawn at a later date.

10→1 design Works, the firm behind the sites, was also responsible for the award-winning Uniqlo Lucky Line website, which also used social media to allow customers to virtually stand in line at new Uniqlo stores in Tokyo and Taipei for a chance to win prizes.

On March 28, the day the campaign launched, 160,000 blocks were made. However, the Twitter feed suggests that the majority of entrants are Japanese. Granted, the default language of teh site is Japanese and the English button is a little hard to spot.  English-language promotion of the site has also been scant. With foreign tourism still flagging after the quake, you’d think JAL would be making a bit more noise.

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